A court in Scotland added to the unending Brexit mess on Wednesday, by unanimously ruling Prime Minister Boris Johnson lied to the queen in order to suspend Parliament, a move it has labeled unlawful.
The ruling doesn't mean an immediate recall for Parliament, which was suspended amid chaotic scenes Monday night. Instead, an emergency hearing in the Supreme Court on Tuesday will make a final ruling.
In a summary of their findings, the Court of Session judges unanimously said Johnson's decision to suspend was motivated by the “improper purpose of stymieing Parliament.”
“The Court will accordingly make an Order declaring that the Prime Minister's advice to HM the Queen and the prorogation which followed thereon was unlawful and is thus null and of no effect,” they added.
Joanna Cherry, the lawmaker who led the legal challenge, told reporters outside the court that the “next move is to demand the recall of Parliament.”
However, barrister Jolyon Maughan, whose Good Law project funded the legal challenge, tweeted that "the effect of the decision is that Parliament is no longer prorogued.”
“This is an incredibly important point of principle. The prime minister mustn’t treat parliament as an inconvenience,” Maughan told the Guardian. “I’m relieved that my understanding of the functioning of our democracy — that allows parliament to exercise its vital constitutional role — has been vindicated by Scotland’s highest court.”
Downing Street said it was ”disappointed by today’s decision,” adding, “The U.K. government needs to bring forward a strong domestic legislative agenda. Proroguing Parliament is the legal and necessary way of delivering this.”
The Edinburgh appeal court’s ruling overturned a ruling by the same court last week that said Johnson’s suspension was lawful. A court in London has also ruled Johnson’s suspension was lawful.
The Supreme Court will assess both cases next week, together with a similar challenge brought in Northern Ireland.
Wednesday’s decision is the latest in a seemingly endless series of missteps and controversies that have plagued the Brexit process from the moment the U.K. voted to leave the EU in June 2016.
It's also another loss for Johnson, whose brief time in charge of the country has been marked by one embarrassing loss after another. As well as losing his government’s majority in the House of Commons, he has lost six parliamentary votes, and his own Tory MPs have rebelled against him. His own brother quit his Cabinet, citing “love of country” over family loyalty. Despite all this opposition, Johnson and his Brexiteer allies appear intent on crashing out of the EU on October 31, with or without a deal.
The one success Johnson has had was his ability to suspend Parliament for five weeks. The suspension began in the early hours of Tuesday morning, but lawmakers did everything they could to stop it happening, including chanting, holding up protest signs, and even surrounding the Speaker to try to prevent him from leaving his chair and ending the session.
Now that minor victory could be lost too.
Even if the ruling is not upheld by the Supreme Court, the decision from the Scottish judges puts Johnson and the queen in a very difficult position.
“Regardless of the final outcome, it is a pretty uncomfortable position for the Palace,” Catherine Haddon, a historian at the Institute for Government, tweeted. “Her Majesty acts on the advice of her prime minister. For a court to rule that advice was unlawful, even if the ruling is later rejected, opens up questions about how that advice is given. She has to be able to trust No. 10.”
Cover: Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to Pimlico Primary school in South West London, to meet staff and students and launch an education drive which could see up to 30 new free schools established. Picture date: Tuesday July 10, 2018. See PA story POLITICS Freeschools. Photo credit should read: Toby Melville/PA Wire URN:45170810 (Press Association via AP Images)